It’s The Odyssey… IN SPACE!
It was recently announced that Warner Brothers is working on taking the epic poem, The Odyssey, and turning it into a science fiction film. Because the internet exists, responses ranged from the cautiously optimistic to the blindly cynical to several hundred ancient Greeks complaining that Hollywood is raping their childhood like they did with that Jason and the Argonauts debacle. Amongst all the responses, though, only one took me by surprise. At /Film, Germain Lussier said, “Even in our wildest, 11th grade English class imaginations, few could have seen this one coming.”
To which my response is… “Really? Is it that big a surprise?” If anything, I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before.
The great thing about science fiction, friends, is its infinite adaptability. There is virtually no story you can’t tell in the proper sci-fi setting… in fact, many of the greatest works of sci-fi are largely metaphorical in nature. Both the Star Trek and X-Men franchises, at least early in their early incarnations in the 1960s, were often used to discuss the civil rights movement. Battlestar Galactica was known to deal with modern-day politics. Superman is often spoken of as an extraterrestrial Christ figure, despite being created by a couple of Jewish kids from Cleveland. Everything from 1984 to 2012 has taken then-current fears and put them on display through a sci-fi prism.
Then there are the stories that pick up on specific plots and tropes. Alien, as I’ve argued many times, is essentially a haunted house movie with the house replaced by a spaceship and the ghost replaced by a drippy, hard-shelled monstrosity with acid blood. Forbidden Planet shares much of its DNA with William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Throw the Swiss Family Robinson off their island — off the planet — and you have Lost in Space. That one didn’t even change the family’s last name.
Much has been written about George Lucas homaged big ol’ chunks of Akira Kurasowa’s Hidden Fortress when he wrote Star Wars. That’s probably the reason people were so willing to believe the recent rumor — since debunked — that Disney had Zach Snyder working on a Star Wars universe adaptation of another Kurasowa film, Seven Samurai. (You may know it better by the title of the American remake: the classic western The Magnificent Seven.) That story could easily work in outer space. Hell, why stop there? Take the death of Qui-Gon Jinn and retell it Rashomon style.
The Odyssey in space? Why not? Look at the basic DNA of the story: it’s about a general who has been gone from home for years who gets lost and goes through many dangers and adventures on his way home, where everybody but his wife and son believe he’s dead. Gerry Dugan and Phil Noto put that story in a contemporary military setting and called the graphic novel The Infinite Horizon. The Cohen brothers dropped it into the American south and gave us O Brother, Where Art Thou? The Civil War drama Cold Mountain picks up on parts of Homer’s epic. James Joyce loosely adapted it in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century and called it Ulysses, which the Modern Library declared the best novel in 100 years.
Hell, why stop at The Odyssey? Give us space opera versions of The Iliad and The Aeneid while you’re at it. Hollywood loves a trilogy.
Good science fiction can handle almost anything you throw at it.
Posted on January 16, 2013, in Geek Punditry, Science Fiction and tagged 1984, Akira Kurasowa, Alien, Battlestar Galactica, Cold Mountain, Forbidden Planet, George Lucas, Greek Mythology, Hidden Fortress, Jason and the Argonauts, Lost in Space, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Star Trek, Star Wars, Superman, Swiss Family Robinson, The Aeneid, The Iliad, The Infinite Horizon, The Magnificent Seven, The Odyssey, The Tempest, Ulysses, X-Men. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.